Pascal: Hi, welcome to One-Degree Shifts. I'm Pascal Tremblay, your host. I'm the CEO and co-founder of Nectara. We're a psychedelic support ecosystem, and today I'm really thrilled to talk to my friend Raad. Hi, Raad.
Raad Seraj: Pascal, good to be here. Thanks so much for having me.
Pascal: Our pleasure. And Raad is the CEO and founder of Mission Club and he's also the podcast host and creator of Minority Trip Report.
What is the Minority Trip Report, Raad?
Raad Seraj: Minority Trip Report is a podcast for underrepresented views in psychedelics mental health and consciousness. So when I say it's a play on the movie Minority Report because I often find with marginalized in minority views, people often experience some sort of surveillance.
And the whole Minority Trip Report movie is essentially about surveillance. So it's a trip, it's a play on the. It was pretty clever, I thought. Thanks, . I have those moments, sometimes .
Pascal: And can you tell us a bit more about Mission Club as well?
Raad Seraj: Yeah, sure. So Mission Club is a education investment platform. And our aim is to broaden the pool of capital in the psychedelic space by including a wider net of people who can invest and become owners in companies emerging in this space.
Some may know that less than 2% of venture capital raised every year goes to people of color are women. And if you happen to be a woman of color, then good luck finding any capital at all. And so part of our theory of. It is to not only make venture capital and investing more accessible to people because venture capital has been locked into very close knit society community of people for a long time, for the last 50 years.
We wanna make these accessible through education, through rallying people, through bringing to the forefront these opportunities that are emerging, but also we want to have a di much more diverse community of investors. And the theory of change being that if you diversify the ownership, maybe the companies that emerge will also represent the sort of ethos of inclusion, equity, and access.
Pascal: Beautiful. I love what you're doing there. I'm flabbergasted by a 2% number that's really interesting. Stunning really, that the number is so low. But for now, let's talk about businesses and psychedelic businesses especially.
I'm a huge fan of this idea of psychedelic businesses being a reflection of the teachings that we get from our experiences and our journeys. And in a lot of ways it's an idealistic view, like it's something that we can reach over time and it's a kind of a process for everyone. And I'm curious what you think around what does a psychedelic business exactly and what does it mean to you?
Raad Seraj: It's a good question, right? So I think the word psychedelic business gets thrown around a lot, but I ask, I flip it because I think to me it's not about psychedelic business as much as psychedelic business models, right? If you're just applying the same business model and selling drugs, whether it's, miniaturized ayahuasca experiences or not, it's the same thing.
Like it's a business model that's gets scaled up and hence the impact and the kind of like the business, it's dictated by the Smith model and what, what it's selling and how it's scaling and so on. When I think of let's say the business of psychedelics and psychedelic business models that reflect maybe in some way or form our experiences,
And mind you, our experiences can be terrible. I'm not one of those people that believe every experience is blissful and, you're up in the clouds and icking through Burning Man with glitter on your body and stuff like that. . , although that's fun too. Absolutely. I've done that.
It's great. It's awesome. It's a good time. But I think there's challenging trust, but I think there's lot to be said about where and with who your expenses and medicines. So I really think the question is, to me, when I've had these profound transcendence experiences, they've been around about, about feeling really present.
I've felt fulfilled. I've felt heard. I felt seen. I also felt like a lightness of being but mostly I felt very safe in the community and the settings that I was wi in, right? And that safety, that psychological safety ultimately allowed me to. Think differently, dream differently, be different, and so the state of being, so if I think about those moments so let's say slowing down being allowed to be, being empowered, how does that translate in business? Of course, we're talking about very ideal states and it's not easy. These are various, Problems and psychedelics won't fix everything.
They'll fix perhaps, hopefully the mindset that will then allow us to address these issues or at least tackle them in a courageous, honest way. I think about, for me, when I talk about Mission Club, I think one of the first things is we talk about ownership, right? Is there some way to distribute ownership or the feeling of ownership, right?
We talk about reciprocity a lot. The very guardians, the stewards of these medicines for eons. Are they being enabled empowered? Are they healing? And if we are taking and learning from them, can we reciprocate? That's a psychedelic business model in a way, because reciprocation is not something, it's easy, it's talked about as fetishized, but really who is doing it, so I think ownership is one area, right? But also you can talk about as simple as, and this doesn't have to be exclusive to psychedelic businesses, right? Like, how do you treat your employees? How does the CEO show up? There's so many different ways that you could have psychedelic business models, or at least how your internal protocols, how do you treat people?
It all boils down to humility and how you treat others, right? And compassion and business models doesn't necessarily just have to be like, oh, it doesn't have to be necessarily about the pricing and how you're selling services. It gave you how you're treating people, your employees, how you're treat your stakeholders, is there some sort of reciprocal sense of giving back? Does it reflect in the ownership of the company? Do employees have a larger stake in the business? Dr. Bronners. , the employees are also part owners of the business. That's a psychedelic business model, right? So we get too caught up in, I think, the psychedelic business because there's just no way better to describe it.
But as far as I'm concerned, it's just same old businesses that just happened to be in the psychedelic space. It's not the same thing. .
Pascal: Yeah, good points. And I'd like to call back Frederick Laloux's work on reinventing organizations and the teal model that he designed, or he noticed in a lot of different companies in his research is to me, like the ideal psychedelic business because it really talks about what you shared around decentralization, distribution of power, like self-management.
And having processes and different protocols within the organization to really create this holistic, multi-dimensional organization that keeps growing and keeps evolving over time as the people within it changes as well. And I'm curious, like what you've seen in this sort of psychedelic model space or like how the space has been growing.
There's a lot of exuberance and a lot of kind of excitement around the potential of psychedelics.
I'm curious like where you're seeing the space evolve and and what you'd like to see.
Raad Seraj: Yeah, I think you made a really good point. I think the, talking. Different sort of structures and different ways of doing business, different ways of distributing ownership. This is not a new thing, right?
There's lots of, there's, a big body of work that we've been exploring this idea of as cooperatives and, and so on. This has been done, right? So again, just cause the psychedelic doesn't mean it has to be all brand new. We can learn from a lot of things. We can draw experiences, we can draw lessons.
I think the issue becomes is perhaps this misunderstanding that just cuz you have a business, it needs to scale a certain way. Scalability comes into the question all the time, and I think business. Investing investors. These are all part of a very fantastic ecosystem. You need all of them. You need people who will work in businesses.
You need founders, you need people who will invest. And there's different kinds of investors. Some of them will, angel investors will invest in the founder founding team and their vision above all, they're called angel investors because they care more about the passion that drives the team because there's so much else that is unknown what's gonna happen downstream.
Nobody really knows. Nobody really knows what's gonna happen two years from now. But the problem is, I think there's a misunderstanding between businesses raising money and they all think going to VCs are the first way to raise money. VCs are fantastic in the role that they play in the ecosystem.
There's, it's not about good or bad. It's about are they the right kind of money? And so there's a complete mismatch in expectation sometimes, right? If you're going to take VC money, you have to be able to scale in a way that VCs expect. And VCs are not, demigods or anything like that.
They have their own perceptions and misconceptions, let's just say. Somebody who's applied, who invests in SaaS and software all of a sudden comes to psychedelics, cannot expect the same thing. First of all, the space, there's lots of differences. But coming back to your question, I think what I'm seeing is, I think when the first companies went public, I think there was a gold rush.
And this is also in the time of the pandemic, right? There's already all this money floating around you could, you could, you could write a tweet and then have a five slide deck and then raise 20 million like the next day. Gohar those days you and I were just talking about what's happening in, with Silicon Valley Bank as we speak.
It's like insane. So there's a lot of irrational exuberance, I think, at that time because, and this is where it gets a little difficult, right? Like on one hand it's truly exciting. It's really, truly exciting to see this resurgence of the space coming out of hi hibernation fantastic, right?
And of course we've all healed through the medicine. Most of us have. A lot of us have. And so you're to see go, wow, I can actually participate in a legitimate way now. I can help it grow. But then as with everything now, Hype takes over. And we don't have, we don't have enough science, we don't have enough experts.
And this is all this unknown hype dominance. And we have hype dominance that affects the way people invest money that affects the way people scale their businesses or the startups or so-called startups. I think the stage we are in right now, although it's a very difficult time, whether you're a founder running a business, you have to be very capital constrained.
You, you have to be very frugal. You also have to plan out your capital spends and like, how are you gonna raise money in the next couple of, couple of months or whatever. On the other hand, if you're an investor, you're looking at, oh my God, what do I do? Where do I find liquidity?
Where do I find, where do I invest? Where are the good deals? Should I invest anymore? What's gonna happen with my portfolio companies already? Is it going to melt down? . But in the same time, a lot of the tourists from the last two years have gone. They've left cuz the surface level, all that hype is gone, right?
So in a way now everybody that you have for the most part are people who are high conviction, who really believe in this space. So the tone of the conversation have shifted entirely. Now it's a much more practical, right? It's about just cuz you, again, just cuz you work with psychedelics doesn't mean you'll succeed.
Cuz ultimately, if your business sucks or if your model sucks, or if you don't know how to build a business, if you don't know how to retain talent, if you don't know how to attract talent, if you don't know how to raise money all these things are businesses problems, right? When we started the first years, I think with everybody going into biotech and that's where all the money was going.
Now it's a lot about, okay, capital efficiency, how can you run a business? , what's the quality of your team or the quality of your expertise on the team? Other sides of the psychedelic, periphery like software to better run clinics. Insurance, ultimately if it's gonna cost eight grand for two sessions of MDMA and 16 grand for two sessions of psilocybin, this is, most people can't afford it.
We need coverage who is addressing coverage.
Pascal: Yeah, I was reading someone today, just today on Instagram, how they're opening a retreat in Oregon and because of the cost associated with it, it ends up costing like $3,000 or more for a session, which, yeah. And they're underground sphere here, you can get a really good facilitator for like maybe $800 for a really beautiful experience.
And so that model is keeping some people out.
Raad Seraj: Totally. Totally. And even for regular people, if you're gonna like. For the lack of a better word, mainstream psychedelics, you coverage isn't very important. Then if you're running a clinical network, how are you acquiring the land?
How are you running those businesses? Like it's, there's a lot of complexity here and we talk about psychedelics. You have to appreciate, it's a very fragmented, but also very complex value chain. Right? Everything from the medicines to the logistics to the location to the kind of, like molecules you're working on to the software and the protocols to the practitioners.
It's, there's, it's very complex. So as far as I'm concerned, it's not an industry yet in any way. If anything, it's a loose association of people building stuff together. It's not an industry. .
Pascal: Yeah. I spoke to an investor in a space a few months ago and he had a really interesting take on, on, why you're investing so much in biotech and those kind of things where typically some people would be like that's not the way to do it.
And his point was that there's multiple different pathways towards healing. There's multiple people where certain types of companies and offerings will reach them, where the, the underground ceremonial aspect is not gonna reach them. And that really changed my mind a little bit on that model as I see the value in that sort of money going in different places.
However, what I've noticed personally is that there's. A huge kind of priority placed by the major investors in the space on hitting the home runs and really going for like the IPOs. And of course that's, there's a financial piece to that, but am I too idealistic in thinking that there's more money that should be going towards helping people first?
I'm questioning myself here in terms of is that something that eventually will become more of a priority as we keep redefining what wealth truly means? Or is this kind of the first or second phase of money pouring in that's coming in from the kind of old paradigm of capitalism basically?
Raad Seraj: It's a very important question, I think you're asking, it's not simple, much like anything. I think the answer is, it depends, because if you're looking at how institutions invest in money, right? Pharmaceutical drug discovery is very expensive. And so you need institutions with deep pockets that can not only fund phase one, but phase three, right?
. And every phase, you're gonna have to based on that success of that phase of that clinical trial, you're gonna have to raise further crunches of money. And you need institutions with deep pockets to take you through the entire funnel. Otherwise, you're not gonna succeed.
It always takes, on average, 10 years to go through a clinical drug discovery process on average. , right? And a billion dollars, extremely expensive. So I think the important question is to ask what are the mechanisms support in the business that you're in?
If you're running a retreat, again, if you go into somebody, an institution that invests in biotech or pharma, that's a extreme mismatch, right? So it's very important to understand that it just cause it's psychedelics, it falls under the umbrella. There's different kinds of businesses. Now, to your question about where money should be flowing, that is part of the a big challenge, I think, because the pool of capital is so tiny, right?
So how do you actually motivate people? How do you broaden the capital pool, whether it's people who invest. it, in, in early stage founders is those people who donate more are giving more to charity. You have to ask where should the money go? That's an equally important problem and I'm a big believer in just cuz you again, work with psychedelics doesn't mean you'll succeed.
I think there's this like irrational exuberance on the other side as well in our community, which is that we have this sense of exceptionalism is that just cuz we've done, we're just gonna lick the toad, I'm now going to succeed in every part of my life. ? . It's I think so we have to get over ourselves and in terms of practicality, we actually have to actually ask and expect better of ourselves too.
And we have to mature, we have to grow up as well. And can't just blame business for everything. .
Pascal: And that's so true. And I feel like part of the hype and in some ways like part of the reason why the capital is flowing in certain ways that I feel it. Yes, we really want to heal and we really wanna transform and we generally want to change the way society and healthcare works.
But I feel like it also reflects our immaturity with integration. And doing our own work. Really honoring the process that it takes time and there's ups and downs and it's not, like you said, licking a to and you're gonna be successful at everything . And I feel like a lot of that from my perspective is like asking the right questions.
And I feel like the downfall of the markets in a way is a time for pausing and asking the right questions. What are some questions that you feel the space overall or founders or investors should be asking themselves right now?
Raad Seraj: So what is the problem I'm trying to solve? Number one, what is the core problem? And really dig into it. Forget about the competition. , right? There's a business philosophy, like part of, it's like competition is for losers. It's don't worry about what others are doing.
Think about what you can do and do that the best way possible. But I, again, I think there's a sense of exceptionalism, the space, and I'm not impermeable to it, right? We all, we, we all are susceptible to this sort of exceptionalism. I think because the space is, despite it being very potent and, full of enthusiasm and conviction, we can be a little insular.
So we have to ask, okay, what is the problem I'm solving? That's number one. Number two, I also think it's okay not to scale. If you are running a business and you're running a retreat center, that is actually helping people, healing people. It's super powerful. You've changed the trajectory of people's lives.
It's okay not to have 50 of them. I think there's a, there's this pressure that people feel that everything has to be scalable. It doesn't have to be scalable per se, right? That's number two. . I think number three, we have to think about access in a very serious kind of way. I'm a person of color, a straight man, person of color, but immigrant Muslim, grew up pretty poor, came into Canada as an international student.
There's a lot of things I didn't have, there's a lot of ways I have an upper hand for sure. I'm still a straight man, which I've had in some ways probably things a lot easier for me than others. But I think the question here is it's not a, it's not an easy thing to ask, but how do we actually access, so how do we actually address the, is the issue of access inequity, right?
It's not just about color, it's about class ultimately, right? Healing. Economic pressures financial precarity, these are very serious problems, so we have to address them. So how do we actually bake that in and make sure everybody has a chance to experience the healing powers of these medicines?
So those are a few, I think that I think a lot about. I think number two, the scalability is something that I hear about a lot. I think it's better to ask for good advice and bring business leaders and others in really try to broaden our space. And, and on this one point is to say the space has existed for a long time, despite 50 years of criminalization, stigmatization, illegality.
And so on because of the conviction of the very people who are, the sort of the fore bearers, the stewards I'm talking about, like with the modern times, not the indigenous roots of this medicine per se, but now as we are emerging outta this cyber nation, I think we have to broaden and invite others in.
If we remain insular, we're going to fail.
Pascal: And we saw what happened with synthesis. They bought a huge piece of land Yeah. In Oregon and they got burned in some ways. And yeah. And the retreat model especially is really difficult to scale cause it's already really difficult to just wanna single retreat. The margins can be really low and it can be quite a challenge to scale the services and integration and those type of things.
And. I love that you bring in the smallness and the integrity that comes of smallness. And one degree shifts that can happen from, having a retreat that has 10 to 12 people going through every month. How does that compare to the impact of a retreat that has 10 people going every week?
You can have a nice discussion about that in, in long term and come up with some different answers. But . It's interesting too, in terms of that piece is, and it touches on the investment piece as well, is our attachment towards growth and attachment to bigness and attachment to , com competition. That's why I mentioned an old paradigm earlier, is I feel like the new paradigm is all about collaboration community building, supporting one another letting go of some of the piece of the pie in, in, in for the sake of supporting a bigger idea than ourselves.
And I'm really excited about that potential for psychedelic organizations is really redefining what competition means and re you know, redefining it into collaboration. And yeah, maybe kingdom nature's the laws of nature as organizations.
Raad Seraj: Yeah. And I think, that's really well said.
And I think what the last 10 years of. Tech have really messed with people's minds in terms of what to expect. We are seeing it now, right? Money was cheap, money was everywhere. And you spent the entire, part of your raise just on sort of customer acquisition. That's really it, right?
Oh, we're Uber, here's 50% discount or everything. How many grocery deliveries apps do we need? . So you gotta wonder where that money came from because money was cheap, right? And now that we are in the sort of like the what can I say? The sort of like VC winter, I guess is, you can see the one the businesses are have to rethink everything, like the mentality, and that permeates everything.
Every founder what this sort of like culture of entrepreneurship. On one hand I think it's a natural evolution of human culture, right? . As you gain agency in your life, as you want more agency in your life, you're gonna want more agency in the way you earn money. Who you report to, who you're accountable to.
You're gonna want to be a boss, right? You're gonna want to have your own business, whatever that is. I think that's a beautiful thing. Entrepreneurship to me is one of the most powerful, forces out there. And I don't mean just like running a tech business. Go run a not-for-profit, go become an artist.
It doesn't mean you have, it doesn't mean you have to sell anything. It's entrepreneurship to me is the act of creating, which is essentially what an artist does, right? That's such an I, that's an important powerful force. But it's been bastardized a little bit, right? Oh yeah. Cuz if you're not, wearing a hoodie and jeans in the entrepreneur's uniform, which is where put a blazer on, drive a Tesla, you're not successful.
All that bullshit. And it's my point is that kind of like per that kind of cultural. , my asthma permeates everything. And I'm, I don't, I think psyched are not impermeable to, that's what I'm trying to get at. The o one other thing I wanted to just touch on earlier on is that maybe the fourth two thing to remember is that it is very early.
The best businesses haven't even emerged yet, but do help out, do get involved, offer help openly. I really believe that everybody has a part to play here. I'm not just saying that, I really believe what, whatever skill set you have, passion, enthusiasm, skills, these are all really important.
And whether your core to the ecosystem or not does not mean anything. Just come in and participate because there will be ways to be involved. And the good thing about community is that we don't forget. We don't forget people like that. That's why I love this community so much.
Pascal: Yeah. It's a beautiful community.
And I resonate with the exceptionalism piece because I feel like all my friends are in a psychedelic space. I talk about psychedelic work and therapy with all my friends. And it's very easy to get lost in that and think that it's not super early. There's a sense of it's way more mainstream than it actually is still, even though, Michael Poland wrote his books And Will Smith has said that he's done multiple ayahuasca ceremonies.
And I wanna touch it a little bit on what you shared earlier, cuz it's still, it stayed with me, just how impactful that number was, is that only 2% of money is going towards minorities or people of color.
Can you share more around that in terms of in the psychedelic space where have you, what have you seen in terms of blindside in that sense?
Raad Seraj: Yeah. And just to correct that number 2% of VC goes to, to women. And if people of color, and again, women of color, it's much, much lower, I think 0.06 or something for black women.
Wow. I read a statistic that black women in the US are six times more likely to start a business, and yet they get. 0.06% of all VC that goes to them. Of course there's a gap here. Just because you start a business doesn't mean you've gone after VC or it's venture backable, right? So it's, don't take it with a grain of salt.
But I think in ter, just to show you how small the piece of the pie is in terms of what's allocated for women and then people of color and other marginalized founders. So I think there's two things to this, right? One is I, if you look at the private markets, so if you look at people essentially who invest in, let's just say startups or founders, right?
Historically, it's been a very closed off networks of people. And when you have a closed network of, and we can talk about the history of venture capital if you want. It's a pretty long story, but it's a fascinating story. It's one of those things when I found, when I read about it, I'm like, oh, I see why things came to be nobody's.
Nobody started going hahaha, I'm not gonna invest in more women. It just happened to be this way. Because again, momentum builds up and the same group of people who invest in companies get wealthy, only pull in people like themselves and so on. I think a hilarious, I think I forgot who did the survey, but the number was, I think it was, what is Harvard Business Review said 40% of all VCs have Harvard degrees.
Wow. . So that's amazing. And in terms of because private networks remain private, And, a lot of the deal flow happens oh, I met so and very impressive. Who would I prioritize this to? I'll go prioritize to my buddy who I know really well because he gave me a deal. And that buddy may go okay, I'll write a hundred million dollars.
But here I got three other people who look like me, who smell like me, who talk like me. Oh, they got more money too, right? Nobody's I think, I don't think anybody's trying to be a vicious, malign kind of a person, but it's just how networks work. . And the issue is that the networks are all closed.
The second thing is that there's very little education about how v what VC actually is. I'm not saying anybody can do it, I'm still learning. And I'm not a vc. I do work with a lot of founders and I invest in startups, but, I think there's, there is something to be said about learning and really doing the job well, cuz it's not easy.
It's very glamorized. It's not easy. , but it can be done at the least. You don't have to have $200,000 in the bank anymore to invest. You can start with $500. You can start with a thousand dollars. Angel List made that completely possible for anyone to become an angel investor. But that comes with education.
And so again, who does the education? Where does the education happen? So this is all part of that process. So if you look at like the number of emerging funds, the number of new funds that are coming in, people realize there's something deeply systemically wrong about this. Cuz if you can't get funding and capital to grow your business, guess what?
Who gets screwed? And if you think about the businesses and the business model as a manifestation of the mindsets behind these businesses, then what you're actually doing is you're building the cultural infrastructure that perpetuates the same thought patterns, the same sort of problems. . So let's get more capital out. Let's educate more, let's empower more founders. Let's get, let's connect these two and let's support, and then we can maybe have a have a thoughtful change in the world.
Pascal: Yeah. And when we talk about minority perspectives we're not just talking about color just, that's just one aspect, of that. And obviously you started the podcast Minority Trip Report to talk about these things. What are more underrepresented aspects of minority in your mind?
Raad Seraj: Great question. I guess I, when I first started the podcast, I was thinking about it for a while and I really liked the play on words as were most great ideas that came in, came to me in the shower.
I was like, ah, Minority Trip Report. Okay, cool. So
Pascal: are you Tom Cruise in the this whole metaphor?
Raad Seraj: I really don't like Tom Cruise at all. I know people hate me. I know people are talking about Tom Top Gun should win an Oscar. I'm like, Hey, whatever. I don't think so. Yeah, , it's a good movie.
But Oscar, come on. Anyway so for me, when I talked about Minority Trip Report, I think it was really important for me to actually really tease out what I want minority represent, right? What does it mean to me? Cuz there's two things that is really important to consider and it was really important for me to go through.
One is, I am not by any means an expert in diversity and equity and inclusion. People have dedicated their entire lives to working on these sort of very complex. Issues. I'm not that I am a person of color and I a lot, in a lot of ways in my life I've been marginalized, but I don't speak for others in the way that I don't have a pedigree of work that I've thought about, but I do have my lived experiences, which I think are also a good way spring from. And the second part was, I think minority to me, was really important to me that it did not become pigeonholed as a diversity podcast. Nothing wrong with diversity podcast, but I think minorities can come from very different places.
Color is one thing. Gender, class, perhaps the most insidious form of discrimination, right? Racism is only 400, 500 years old classes existed ever since human complex societies have existed, right? And we don't talk about class very much. . So it is really important for me to say it's a minority from that perspective, but ultimately, what is the point?
The point is to talk about diverse lived experience, right? That's what's really important to me. I by all means, will have, if a person is white, but they've grown up, poor. I think that's a very important perspective to represent, because ultimately it's the lived experience.
What does it feel like to be marginalized in that way? We don't talk about this kind of stuff, right? I also really hate that diversity and has been made into a monolith as if just cause I'm brown, I gotta speak for all brown people just cause I'm Muslim. Oh, now I obviously speak for all Muslim people, I don't, I really don't like that kind of bullshit.
And I think like ultimately inclusion, equity is all about giving somebody the dignity of having their own thoughts. and having space in the world by which they can, exist however they choose to exist. It's about dignity. It's not about color or any one thing. It's not a monolith.
Pascal: Yeah. Said. Beautiful. And the world is so linear already. And I think it in a lot of different ways in our lives, we can use a lot more different perspectives. And I think linking it back to the kind of psychedelic journey and the integration and processes every new story, every new insight, every new input is a new reflection, a new way to question yourself, question the world, question your ideas and beliefs and questioning your place in the world too as well.
And so I feel there's a lot of enriching that can happen from, I, I love how you put it, respecting people's dignity to have their own thoughts and ideas and stories.
Raad Seraj: I really like that. And I description, and I just wanna clarify like, I think while I feel like. I'm focused on, minority perspective in all places.
I, I am starting with a very big focus on mobilizing more people and empowering more people to share their stories, who happen to be immigrants, who happen to have, who happened to be, have a, struggled with depression growing up in a single bedroom with five or six other siblings because they're fresh immigrants, right?
Who are escaping conflict zones and things like that. There's a lot of work to do to just highlight the marginalized voices in this space. And we have to, that's like the low hanging fruit here, right? Allowing people to see themselves in other people is really important.
And again, it's not necessarily about black or white or brown, things like that. I think understanding those lived experiences exist, everywhere. And we have to make con to invite those opinions in because, Guess what? When you walk into a room, crowded a room and nobody looks like you nobody shares what you, at least on the surface, how you look at the world.
You're gonna be really discouraged from showing up. And we don't want that. And that also influences what kind of clinic, who gets to show up in clinical trials. We all, we, that's a whole nother mess, obviously. , where's all the health data, the mental health data, all that stuff coming from, who's it based on?
So it, it goes beyond story. , but I'm starting with the story first.
Pascal: I love it. What are some ways that this lack of awareness or understanding of classes a minority shows up in the psychedelic space, you think?
Raad Seraj: Oh, great question. I can really talk your ear off about this.
Pascal: What are the, some of the ones that come up the strongest for you?
Raad Seraj: I think nobody talks about the, so there's a couple of things. One is, because I think there's a part of a larger conversation about who can actually talk about with some authority about how to steward these experiences, right?
And I'm talking about people who are not indigenous or people who don't have a long pedigree of learning to work with these medicines, right? I'm including therapists in this as well who have, in, in a lot of cases they have done a lot of work with them, right? So I'm not talking about these people per se, but I think this, there's a sense that I think, this ex, this exceptionalism that is reinforced in our space, you do psychedelics once or you're doing psych, ihu Ayahuasca 50 times.
And now you're like, okay, I'll go become a life coach and then sell courses on Instagram and I'll go like on a permanent vacation in Costa Rica and broadcast my vulnerability through Instagram, Nothing wrong with that inherently, but it's a form of power and influence.
And unlike before, people are paying attention whether they're in the psychedelic space or not, they're paying attention. People are seeking, they know there's something deeply wrong with the world today. And they're looking for ways to heal. And psyche keeps coming back up in the, in the mainstream consciousness now, right?
People are curious, but they don't necessarily feel safe to have this conversation anywhere. So when you get bro, broadcasted on all these platforms over again by somebody who's ill-equipped. who's like a life coach, but is oh, I'm like 21 years old. I'm like, great. Good. I'm sure you've lived a wonderful life, but obviously I'm being a little provocative.
I don't mean, it's okay to be 21 years old. I was 21 once and extremely foolish . But yeah, my point is I think, that's part of a larger conversation was like, how do we actually responsibly advocate for these medicines? And I don't have the answer. Okay. It's not important that just, you are only an advocate or you can only be responsible trips that are if you have, a medical degree.
If somebody's trips it at 400 journeys, why are they less equipped or why are they less qualified? But we have to have a serious conversation about what makes somebody qualified to be responsible. Especially in this space where talks about assault and transgressions come up over and over again.
We have to have a serious conversation about this. That's number one.
Number two, I think, and this one I talk about a lot, and this one is actually close to my heart, is I think there is a this again stems from the exceptionalism, the psychedelic exceptionalism, that there's an aversion to talking about money.
We think that anything that mentions profit is like an all already a corporate overlord that is ready to extract and suck the life out of anybody who is here, which is very disingenuous because how many times have I been to a space where everybody's oh, I'm here to heal the world. I also payed a $3,000 for a ticket and nobody wants to talk about it.
I think it's really hypocritical and disingenuous. Profit a, like a big pharma company, as much of a corporation as a small cafe in your neighborhood, nobody works for free, right? It's a very different business model. Yes. Less, fewer shareholders. Yes. Hires local people. Yes, all these, but they are still making profits.
So when we talk about profit, when we talk about money, let's be a little more smart and nuanced and appreciate the level of complexity here, then we can be much more genuine in how we approach equity and inclusion and access. But really that this part like really irks me. I've had a number of questions like, is it wrong to profit?
I'm like, it's not wrong to profit. The question is rather is it wrong to hoard profit?
Pascal: Exactly Cuz profit is impact if you're using it well it can touch many lives.
Raad Seraj: Yeah. It's the same kind of , I joke so I, years ago I read this amazing book, it's called Poor Economics.
It is a noble laureate in economics and it talks about the psychology of the impoverished and really talks about okay, so what actually is poverty and how do you actually motivate people who are below the margin? How do you motivate them? Because Clear, just giving them money is not effective because actually it takes the agency away, right?
. So one of the key sort of like findings from there. Is was really funny. I'm not sure why I'm going on this tangent, but I'll just finish the story. Is, so one of the experiments I ran was they looked at what is the marginal impact on the calorie taken for every dollar given to someone, right?
So meaning if I give you one extra dollar, how much of that dollar is going to, let's say the staples, so fish or the protein grains and so on, and how much of that dollar is going to other things? So somebody who's really struggling is not eating, let's say two meals or three meals a day.
You expect that most of that money will go to substance. Like things that are like food, shelter, maybe what they've noticed that after a certain point, surprisingly enough, more of that dollar goes to things like cigarettes. Things like going to watch more TV and . Obviously men do this more than women do women.
The money actually goes into their own families and the community and men are like, all right, I'll go smoke another cigarette and go hang out with my buddies. And we know what that's which is fun, but also not surprising, right? And the interesting thing about that is that when you have more money going to things like television, cigarettes and tea, things that actually alter your consciousness than you're actually talking about greater money, my income, going to things like escaping my body, escaping my pain, escaping my current reality, right?
And there, I guess the, what I'm trying to say is I think when we talk about, we have to talk about what money represents, I think that's really the core question here, right? Money is not just, money is not just like a affordance. It's power, it's influence. And things like that. And I'm not saying let's go tell everybody how much we make and how much my house is worth and all that stuff, but let's also be more conscious and less foolish.
And I think the reason that we can be so disingenuous is because the spaces we, go into are actually not very diverse. It's very much like an echo chamber.
Pascal: Yeah. And, and what you shared around the power and privilege here is that those spaces, not a lot of them are created by people of minority. They, for example, are retreat space. And the retreat owners, for example, like their relationship to money greatly influences the therapeutic space, like from top down.
All the way to the bottom of the food, the supply chain and the experience itself, like that relationship to money from the founders and their views on the world affects the whole therapeutic experience. And so everyone who goes into that retreat space gets influenced by the energetic fabric of that retreat space because of the owners creating the space, owning the space, managing the space, setting pricing, hiring different people, their relationship between themselves and their employees affects the space where to source their medicine affects the space and et cetera, et cetera.
And so by having structures that enable more variety of people to have an influence, like we're changing the whole space on a pretty large level and influencing it for the better, I feel.
Raad Seraj: Totally, a hundred percent. I think that's really well said, and that's really a key part of this. The number of times that I've heard people on panels say, , or respond to the question like, Hey, how do you create better, safer spaces when somebody's having a bad trip?
Now, bad trip or challenging trip, or however you wanna word that. The number are times I've heard people say, oh, I really believe if you really, you work through that and you're gonna, it's gonna be, it's wonderful. It's really great to go through bad trips. Are you fucking kidding me?
You're telling me a single mother who is, working 16, 18 hours a day, is, if she's racialized and then she has a challenging trip, you're thinking, you're telling me it's just about Hey, think positively love, love light, man. Yeah, love and light. It's oh, I can heal the world.
I go to, I go into a refugee camp, I'll give everybody high fives and yell, eat cake, and yeah, poverty solved. No problem. That kind of bullshit again, to your point, I'm saying this because it's, it perpetuates this idea, the single one dimensional idea of what healing looks like. and we have to grow the fuck up.
To be honest, that's the part that upsets me the most. I'm not saying it's wrong, I want to be very clear. I'm not here to like further polarize the space. I'm just saying we need different versions of what healing looks like each to their own. Ultimately, if psychedelics becomes a cartoon, a caricature of its space, and we further polarize and we only say this is what healing is like, we failed completely.
The whole point is choice to each their own. That's really the entire purpose of this whole thing
Pascal: and honoring all the different perspectives we have within us. I'm curious about, just have a few more questions. Curious about your personal experience with these ideas around minorities and spaces in the psychedelic world and your relationship like to that based on maybe a lived experience.
Like what have you experienced? Navigating the space for many years now?
Raad Seraj: I've been very lucky. I think, I've been very lucky in my experiences, I've not felt overtly this is probably because, I, maybe I'm like a weird candidate to answer this question because I've grown up feeling pretty much on the outside of every community and every place that I've been in.
To give you an example, like I. I'm an artist, but my background's in molecular biology and cancer research. I'm a science nerd, but I love art. I've been art, I've been making art. I've been playing music for 20, 25 years. But in terms of like where I fit in, I was two geeky for the artists, two artsy for the Geeks.
If I talk about my background, I, from Bangladesh grew up, I was born there, but I grew up in Saudi Arabia, in the English speaking school full of lower middle class kids. But because the education was so good, all the rich kids came to our school in a place like Saudi Arabia, which at that time was completely, locked up.
I had a western education in a highly xenophobic sort of society. I had a Bangladeshi passport. . But I hung out with people who were not Bangladeshis. Like I'm a Muslim who has piercings and tattoos, who swears profusely? Cuz I love expressing myself that way. Not in a vial.
I feel like you can swear very strategically, which is really important for emphasis.
Pascal: They say people that swear actually more honest in general. So
Raad Seraj: you're probably, I'm just very honest, but, okay good. I'm glad you see me. Pascal. . . My, the point of saying all this is that I think, I might not be the best person to answer this question because I've always felt on the margins anyway.
Now I'm in a time in my life where I see that as a strength and not as a paralyzing source of doubt as I used to because I can now empathize, empa, empathize with a larger, a wider set of people and their experiences. So it's more about. What have this per, what has this person experienced?
How can I relate to them? But going, coming back to your question, of course, there's a overwhelming lack of diversity, a thought of lived experiences of class, of culture in the psychedelic world to this day. There's a lot of ignorance, I think. And by ignorance not only, I don't mean, so there's ignorance as like accidental.
That is okay. If somebody says, Hey, where are you from and where's Bangladesh? I'm like, yeah, that's cool. Okay. It's great. It's an opportunity for, have a good conversation. I enjoy people, but if people, if people are like, ah, where's that, whatever, is it Indy or something? I still get.
That's that's willful ignorance, right? And I've seen, I see both, I see like a naive ignorance in this space, but a lot of willful ignorance. Like you don't want to hear the other perspective. And it goes back to exceptionalism, right? This idea that again, cuz you lick the toad, you're now a beautiful person and now you can go shine, go along the world, right?
I've seen a lot of that. That is, I find that irritating. But not to the point where like it gets to me, I'm like, I accepted for what it is. It's one dimensional of this place, and we will grow up. We will actually have a much more flourishing community. We will. And that's part of the work that you're doing, Pascal, but I'm trying to do but I'm not experienced anything overt.
But the one thing that I did expect that did, have experienced overtly is the, in certain groups of people, I think there's over fetishization of diversity. I think it's a nice word. It's nice to say we are diverse. It's nice to say I care about diversity. It's a lot of that, a lot of that going around.
But if you I rarely see people who have the patience to sit down, actually take on a diverse perspective. It's like how, straight men, we are very fragile, right? We like to think about that. We are good allies and stuff, but when it comes to actually listening to the other side, to the lived experiences of women, there's not much tolerance for it.
And I see that a lot. I see that a lot. I think there's over izing of diversity and nobody's, there's very few people who actually step up and listen to it.
Pascal: And a tokenization of it too as well. I've been part of organization where it's we don't have a person of color on our team. We really need to get one right now.
There's this totally full thing around hey that's the diversity we need. It's just like a photo on a website.
Raad Seraj: No, totally. And I appreciate you saying that. I think and look, these are very difficult conversations. It's a process, right? And I, for one, try not to point fingers because I try to invite people in.
There are people who, whose minds you will never change, so I'll give you an example of a conference that we had. I don't wanna say where it was or with who, but it was really, it was the first conference that I went to that was really made a very strong emphasis on showcasing or bringing to the forefront in the leadership, in the organization in the facilitators, people of color, which I super appreciated.
It was amazing. , but by day three, near the end when there was feedback, some of the quiet feedback was like, yeah, diversity is okay. It's important, but do we need three days of it? I'm like, what the fuck did you show up then? , that's it. Three days took your it, it broke you . That was it. That's your tolerance for diversity.
It's yeah, I like diversity, but in small doses at least say that. That's more honest. That is fucking honest. And I respect somebody who says that, but don't give me this bullshit about oh, diversity and then quietly, like you, you just, you tap the next guy on the shoulder, go oh, there's too much diversity here.
Pascal: I love that you said you're inviting people in. It's the calling in culture rather than calling out culture, right? What's your vision? What's, what are you wanting to invite people in? People are listening at home and what are ways that they can expand their lens and welcome in, the different perspectives that are around them in their lives.
Raad Seraj: I really appreciate that you asked that question, Pascal. Thank you. I try not to ever get into a head space where I'm a teacher. I want to be a student because that's when I can keep learning. And I think that is the most noble pursuit is to be a student of life. And I think to be a student and be authentically open to learning, you have to first and foremost have humility.
And I think humility is the most powerful aspect of the medicine is the humility, right? And that from humility comes the forgiveness, comes the compassion, right? I forgive myself because I know now that I'm capable of being foolish. I know now I'm capable of being violent. I know now I'm capable of being, acting out of bounds and I forgive myself.
And I also know if I act from a position of humility, I can be better. I can grow, I can do better. And hence, I can show up more for my, the people I love. The humility is the part that I think we don't talk about enough, and you have humility. You're inadvertently going to spend more time listening and less time talking.
No matter where in the world you go. There's one thing that is common amongst false prophets, preachers, and politicians. is that they talk too fucking much. They don't listen. And I see a lot of talking here, and I am certainly not impervious again, and I have to remind myself to listen, to be humble. Be funny, be fucking hilarious.
Like it's all, I, I joke either it's all everyone's gonna die. No question about it, right? Elon Musk takes a shit for sure, right? He's human being. He's also going to die someday. Everyone's going to fucking die. The point is, whether you turn to worm food or you become stardust is up to you, but you will die.
And so it's, it's all beautiful. It's all a fucking joke. Experience all of it. Learn and empower. That's what I'm gonna say. If you're curious about something, if you're curious about psychedelics, reach out. But don't settle for the first person you hear from. . If your gut is saying, I don't feel safe.
Keep going. Meet other people. There's lots of beautiful communities. Go meet them. Go find out. Don't do anything that your gut is not letting you. If you don't feel safe, don't do it. Safety is first and foremost, but if you allow someone to invite you a little deeper, you should be open to it as well.
There's a fine line between safety and adventure, right? When do you want to take the leap that is gonna be subject to the person that you speak with, but there's no rush. Take your time. Wanting and wanting to learn is the first step. .
Pascal: Words of wisdom from a humble student. Thank you.
Raad Seraj: Who talks too much? So maybe I'm not following my own advice.
Pascal: No you don't. No you don't. Thank you so much Raad. There's a lot we could keep going on here for and it was a lovely conversation. Where can people find you online?
Raad Seraj: Oh, thanks so much Pascal. I had a really good time. I appreciate, I'm very grateful for the invitation.
You can find me on Instagram. @raadseraj, a minor minority Trip Report is at mine at Minority Trip on Instagram. Mission club is missionclub.co. Yeah, just come find us, follow us and send me an email if you're curious about anything I've said. I love having these conversations. It's a exciting, complex rollercoaster of a life and the space we are in and but it's just the beginning.
It's super early and everybody can play a part in here.
Pascal: Beautiful. Thank you so much, Raad. Thank you. Take care everyone.
Raad Seraj: Bye.